Amnesty criticises Premier League over Newcastle-Saudi links

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Amnesty International has again criticised the Premier League for a perceived lack of action over the links between Newcastle United and the state of Saudi Arabia.

Last week, the publication of court documents in the United States suggested a closer relationship between the Saudi state and the Public Investment Fund (PIF), which owns 80 per cent of Newcastle, than previously stated.

After those documents came to light, Amnesty were among those who called for the Premier League to re-examine the relationship between Newcastle and the Saudi state.

And on Wednesday, Peter Frankental, Amnesty UK’s economic affairs director, said: “A week on from the Public Investment Fund revelations, there’s been a worrying silence from the Premier League about the Newcastle deal.

“Nearly three years ago, we were warning that the league needed to strengthen its ownership rules to prevent state-linked overseas buyers using English football for sportswashing — yet nothing was done and now there’s an apparent vacuum at the top of English football on this crucial issue.

“During the time that Saudi Arabia has owned Newcastle, the human rights crackdown under Mohammed bin Salman has worsened — with freedom of speech now all but extinguished, grossly unfair trials and torture commonplace, and the death penalty being used extensively and with horrifying results.

“It’s surely unimaginable that the Premier League won’t re-examine the assurances made about the non-involvement of the Saudi authorities in the Newcastle deal, and the sooner this is announced the better.”

The Premier League only approved the PIF takeover of Newcastle in October 2021 after receiving “legally-binding assurances” about the separation between the state and fund.

But last week, that level of separation came under fire due to a brief filed in a court case between the PGA Tour and PIF-owned LIV Golf.

In that, PIF describes itself as “a sovereign instrumentality of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” and Al Rumayyan as “a sitting minister of the Saudi government”.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said, following the takeover, that his organisation could remove the consortium if evidence of state involvement in the running of Newcastle was found.

Following Newcastle’s takeover, the Premier League has been in the process of updating its owners’ and directors’ test, with Amnesty a part of those discussions.

Amnesty has also been vocal over the potential takeover of Manchester United. On a possible bid for the Old Trafford club from Qatar, Frankental said: “Coming in the wake of the World Cup and strenuous efforts from the Qatari government to fashion a glitzy new image for the country, it seems highly likely that any Qatari bid for Manchester United would be a continuation of this state-backed sportswashing project.”

The Premier League declined to comment on this story. Newcastle and PIF have also been approached for comment.

GO DEEPER

Newcastle United’s takeover: How strong is Saudi Arabia’s influence one year on?

(Photo: Getty Images)

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